Bell customers to receive up to $11.82 million as part of Competition Bureau agreement

News Release

Agreement also requires Bell to donate approximately $800,000 to support public interest advocacy groups

May 27, 2016 — OTTAWA, ON — Competition Bureau

As a result of a Competition Bureau investigation into unwanted "premium text messaging" charges on customers’ wireless phone bills, Bell will issue rebates to certain current and former customers totaling up to $11.82 million and donate approximately $800,000 to public interest advocacy groups. The amount of money available for consumer rebates is the most obtained to date under a Bureau agreement.

In 2012, the Bureau began an investigation into whether Rogers, Bell, Telus and the CWTA were making or permitting false or misleading representations to be made to customers in third party advertisements relating to premium text messaging services and placing charges for these services on wireless phone bills without prior authorization from their customers. These services included trivia questions and ringtones. The representations appeared in pop‑up ads, web pages and social media promoting premium text messaging services.

Under the terms of today’s agreement, Bell will:

  • Issue up to $11.82 million in rebates to current and former customers;
  • Donate an estimated $800,000 to support digital media research and awareness;
  • Publish a notice to affected customers;
  • Enhance their corporate compliance program; and
  • Develop a consumer awareness campaign to educate consumers about how charges can be incurred on wireless devices and how to avoid unwanted charges.

As part of the same investigation, the Bureau has also settled with the CWTA. The CWTA will also develop a consumer awareness campaign, as well as issue a public notice to affected customers and implement an internal corporate compliance program with a specific focus on "billing on behalf of" practices.

Today’s settlements with Bell and the CWTA conclude the Bureau’s inquiry into this matter. The Bureau reached similar agreements with both Rogers and Telus last year. The resolution of this matter brings total refunds to consumers to over $24 million while over $1 million in donations will go to leading consumer advocacy and research groups dedicated to supporting public interest in the digital economy.

Quick facts

  • The amount of money available for consumer rebates as part of the Bureau’s agreement with Bell is the most obtained to date under a Bureau settlement.
  • Rebates will be issued to certain former and current customers charged for certain premium text messaging services between January 1, 2011, and August 31, 2013.
  • Eligible current customers will receive a rebate in the form of a credit to their wireless account by July 25, 2016.
  • Eligible former customers will be notified to claim their rebate by mail and email by July 25, 2016.

Quote

"We are pleased that the agreements reached with Bell and the CWTA bring an end to the legal proceedings initiated by the Competition Bureau. Trust in the digital economy is vital for Canadians in the 21st century. As with the settlements reached with Rogers and Telus, Bell’s settlement represents a significant win for consumers and will deter others from engaging in misleading advertising that results in unauthorized charges to consumers."

John Pecman,
Commissioner of Competition

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